by Christopher Rappold
Not long ago, I was visiting with Don Rodrigues, one of my dearest martial arts friends for nearly 40 years. Although we speak on the phone often because of our roles with Team Paul Mitchell Karate, this was the first time in nearly eight months that I got to see him in person because of COVID concerns. We had lots to discuss, but for a good chunk of the time, we took a walk down memory lane.
This led to a discussion of how each of us had come to find the martial arts. Coach Rodrigues is my senior by 14 years, and he has deep roots and an almost computer-like memory of old-school karate from the 1960s and ’70s. We laughed the way most martial artists do when they look back in time and talk about things that would not be accepted today.
One of the topics we reminisced about was the sacrilege of asking your instructor when you would be ready for your next rank. If you did, your time was automatically doubled. Back then, we also witnessed instructors...
by Christopher Rappold
Think for a moment about your martial arts school and its current positioning. For better or worse, COVID-19 exposed a weakness in most martial arts programs across the country: We struggle to know what to do when we can’t teach lessons in person. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but together, we need to learn as much as possible from this experience.
To spark the learning, I would pose a question: How do you compete against the thousands of free martial arts videos on YouTube? How do you take on the popular mainstream fitness videos and the free live training offered by their brands? How do you compete against Peloton Bike and dozens of other trendy home-workout items? Answer: You don’t!
Now, before anyone concludes that I’m saying you should just throw in the towel, I ask you to think a bit more strategically. Instead of, “How can I compete?” ask yourself, “What can I offer that others...
by Christopher Rappold
If you had been told in January of this year that our world was about to shut down, would you have believed it? For most of us, the onset of COVID-19 was surreal, almost like watching a far-fetched movie plot unfolding in real time. And as with all unwelcome surprises, no one wants to go through it again. That said, I do want to make sure that our (literal) 20/20 hindsight results in the correct insights that will leave us better prepared for whatever else the future brings.
Because this column focuses on retention, my observations will target four key takeaways. The lessons to be learned — or relearned — from this pandemic are critical to sustained martial arts student retention and success.
1 Building strong relationships is a high-value activity.
To get through any kind of crisis requires more than just your efforts. It takes the collective support of friends, family, team...
by Kathy Olevsky
In the martial arts industry, we constantly have to reinvent ourselves to stay relevant. For example, many years ago, my husband and I ran a very traditional karate school. In the mid-1980s, the two of us moved into cross-training in other styles, but we kept it a secret from most students. We didn’t want to muddy our message, which was that we were a regular karate school.
What we learned is that offering multiple styles in one dojo can be a game-changer. That happened when we transitioned from teaching karate exclusively to offering instruction in karate, kendo, iaido, judo, jujitsu and a variety of weapons. Instead of it becoming confusing to the general public, it became enticing. Students liked the fact that we offered them more choices.
Similarly, we never could have predicted what happened to our world with the COVID-19 pandemic. All of a sudden, we had to transition from physical entities to online businesses. Not surprisingly, the martial arts...
by Jason Flame, MAIA Elite Consultant
Communication is the key to success in any relationship. It’s important that we go above and beyond when it comes to communicating with our students and parents. Having systems in place to maintain frequency and consistency of contact will prevent students from “falling through the cracks.”
Keep in mind that our families are often inundated with information from other activities, work and their personal lives. Face-to-face interaction is always best, but when we need to communicate and are unable to see them in person, we have several options for staying in touch. When relaying information to our students, we should keep these simple yet valuable communication methods in mind.
Nothing beats letting someone hear our voice when we really need to communicate something urgent or significant. Progress checks, enrollment notifications, renewal reminders and upgrade decisions all require discussion. Every quarter, we...
by Christopher Rappold
Open a business magazine or glance at the business section in Barnes & Noble, and then try to recall the business-building ads you’ve recently scrolled over while perusing the internet. Regardless of the industry or group on which they focus, you’ll find one thing in common: They’re disproportionately focused on getting new clients rather than retaining existing ones.
The mother of one of my students approached me in the lobby with her young son, who was visibly upset. She asked if I had a moment to talk. As it turned out, though the boy was an angel in our classes, he was a terror at home and at school. She was bringing him in to have him tell us what he’d done. Additionally, as punishment, his parents had decided to take away the only thing that seemed to matter to him: his martial arts training.
It took me a total of 10 minutes to reframe the mom’s decision to remove the positive reinforcement of martial arts....
By Michelle Hodnett
Project Dojo is a nonprofit community outreach program in Pueblo, Colorado, that works with at-risk children. Through the power of martial arts, Project Dojo seeks to inspire and motivate kids within a safe environment, while continuing to teach the traditions of martial arts. This is the story of Project Dojo co-founder Michelle Hodnett’s experiences in her martial arts journey.
The Origins of the Medicine Ball
Hippocrates, a Greek Doctor in 360 B.C. was also known as the Father of Medicine. Hippocrates is said to have stuffed animal skins for patients to toss for medicinal purposes, like clubbed hands and fingers.
Today, you’ll find medicine balls in almost every gym in America, but when did they start appearing there? We might have a man named Aaron Hewlett to thank for that! Hewlett was the first African American instructor at Harvard University and oversaw the college’s gymnasium. His instruction included the use of...
by Kathy Olevsky
We all know someone who seems to stir up drama like it’s their job. There’s one in every dojo. Sometimes this person is your most talented student, so you try to overlook the attitude you get on or off the floor. Sometimes this person is the family member paying for several of your students, so you grin and bear it for the sake of income. Sometimes this person is the parent of a student who excels in class and who personally does not give you any problems. Whoever he or she is, such a person is the cause of “dojo drama.”
You can ignore the person or make excuses, but sooner or later you have to make a decision. In the second scenario, you might decide that the monthly tuition for multiple students is worth putting up with the drama-causer who’s footing the bill.
However, the decision is more difficult when it involves a student who has talent you want to keep but an attitude you want to lose. When a student belittles others in...
by Melody Johnson
Every Tuesday after school, my son has a playdate at a local park. I like to watch him interact with other kids from the neighborhood so I can observe their behavior. I’m a fan of the way kids play, in part because I’m in awe that we adults don’t engage with our peers the way children do.
Unfortunately, the kids almost always exhibit behaviors that prompt their parents to weigh in on how they’re playing. Most of the parental feedback is negative. Not surprisingly, most of the kids’ responses to this are equally negative.
Many times, it’s just a case of mistaken “stage of development” identity. The parents don’t understand that the children’s behavior is natural and common for their age and therefore shouldn’t be addressed so negatively. At the same time, I see many opportunities where a good martial arts program could help make the parents’ job easier and more enjoyable.
“What martial art do you teach?”
That’s right up there among the most common questions asked by a prospective new student or their parents. If they’ve done some research, they may already know a few things about the martial arts, but as beginners, there are so many unanswered questions and preconceived ideas. Cutting through all of that can sometimes be a challenge.
As a practicing martial artist for my entire adult life I’ve had the opportunity to study a variety of martial art disciplines, some more extensively than others. I like to tell people, “They’re the same thing, only different.” I have always believed that it’s not the specific style or the system that makes one art better for one student and not another. I think it’s more important to find an instructor and a school with a philosophy and style of teaching that is appropriate for the needs of the individual student.
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